Skip to main content

How dare you shush a shushing!

Home
(2015)

(SPOILERS) Every so often, DreamWorks Animation offer a surprise, or they at least attempt to buck their usual formulaic approach. Mr. Peabody & Sherman surprised with how sharp and witty it was, fuelled by a plot that didn’t yield to dumbing down, and Rise of the Guardians, for all that its failings, at least tried something different. When such impulses lead to commercial disappointment, it only encourages the studio to play things ever safer, be that with more Madagascars or Croods. Somewhere in Home is the germ of a decent Douglas Adams knock-off, but it would rather settle on cheap morals, trite messages about friendship and acceptance and a succession of fluffy dance anthems: an exercise in thoroughly varnished vacuity.


Those dance anthems come (mostly) courtesy of songstress Rhianna, who also voices teenager Tip, and I’m sure Jeffrey Katzenberg fully appreciated what a box office boon it would be to have her on board. The effect is cumulatively nauseating though, like a sugar rush that just won’t dissipate, one that makes you sicker and sicker with each passing moment. Day-glo fizzy pop tunes daub over the deficiencies of plot, character and originality, accompanying action or montages to mindlessly euphoric effect; it’s the equivalent of a sitcom laugh track, exposing the basic lack of confidence in the material by bludgeoning the viewer with sentiments of happy-joy. As such, at one point, Oh, the alien Boov who befriends Tip (agreeably voiced by Jim Parsons), announces “This is not music. This is just noise”; it’s enough to make you long for the twee ramblings of Randy Newman, and I would never, ever normally condone such saccharine sensibilities.


The Boovs have invaded Earth, displacing the populace to other designated planetary areas in order to perpetuate their yen for fleeing whenever the fearsome Gorg encroach upon them. Tom J Astle and Matt Ember (the superior Epic) have essentially fashioned a vision of a benign universe, in which the worst that can be said of aliens is that they are stupid; Boov leader Captain Smek (Steve Martin, alas, in Looney Tunes: Back in Action over-exertion mode) is ultimately revealed to have brought down the wrath of the Gorg through inadvertently stealing their sperm bank during a peace meeting that absolutely echoes Adams’ meeting between the Vl’Hurgs and the G’Gugvuntts, only rather tepidly. There are numerous warnings about making assumptions of others throughout, from the true nature of the Gorg, to the Boov view that humans are just like animals, “simple and backwards”. And, of course, the humans teach the Boov a thing or two; in particular, Oh learns about courage. There’s even a lesson in art via Van Gogh (“It’s not about how they look, its about how they feel”).


This being an animation, plot holes tend to get a free pass, but I had to wonder how a 13 year-old girl is so au fait with driving (at one point Tip is overcome with concern over the absence of her mother, and it comes across as if the writers have only just remembered, at a very late stage, that she’s not an entirely self-sufficient, pro-active vessel for Rhianna), and the convenience of the alien equivalent of a text message (long gone are the days when writers would think up futuristic devices; now everything must be banally familiar) being sent to the entire universe (how does that work?) One wonders if the inoffensive Boov design comes consciously off the back of Minions; if so, it isn’t nearly as memorable.


Any movie that ends with “Now everyday is the best day ever” needs a shot of grounding to counteract its hyperbolic, bubble-gum pop sentiments and aesthetic, but Home only very occasionally reaches for something more. At one point Oh leaps into the ocean to restore his temperature to “happiness”, and there’s a moment of stillness as Tip sits on the bonnet of her modified car (pimped up, with the accompanying musical fanfare) waiting for his return. The design of the Gorg, and their reveal, is quite good, if reminiscent of the retconned Ice Warriors in Doctor Who. And tellingly, the best character here is Tip’s cat Pig, probably because no one can put mealy words in his mouth.


Most of the gags are fairly obvious, from Oh taking things literally (microwaving a cookbook, brushing his teeth with a toilet brush) to the usual splattering of toilet humour (Oh needs to Number Three at least once a year, which admittedly is a cut above usual standards, if not on the level of the seashells in Demolition Man), and that’s Home’s problem in the main. The ear-assaulting dance anthems and easy emoting aside, it’s a fairly inoffensive concoction, and a fairly obvious one. Tim Jonson started out so well with DreamWorks, co-directing what is still one of their best (and smartest) pictures Antz, but he’s slumming it with Home. Or maybe it’s down to that Katzenberg influence, doing his darndest to homogenise every detail of the DWA universe.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

I think my mother put a curse on us.

Hereditary (2018)
(SPOILERS) Well, the Hereditary trailer's a very fine trailer, there's no doubt about that. The movie as a whole? Ari Aster's debut follows in the line of a number of recent lauded-to-the-heavens (or hells) horror movies that haven't quite lived up to their hype (The Babadook, for example). In Hereditary's case, there’s no doubting Ari Aster's talent as a director. Instead, I'd question his aptitude for horror.

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

There’s still one man out here some place.

Sole Survivor (1970)
(SPOILERS) I’m one for whom Sole Survivor remained a half-remembered, muddled dream of ‘70s television viewing. I see (from this site) the BBC showed it both in 1979 and 1981 but, like many it seems, in my veiled memory it was a black and white picture, probably made in the 1950s and probably turning up on a Saturday afternoon on BBC2. Since no other picture readily fits that bill, and my movie apparition shares the salient plot points, I’ve had to conclude Sole Survivor is indeed the hitherto nameless picture; a TV movie first broadcast by the ABC network in 1970 (a more famous ABC Movie of the Week was Spielberg’s Duel). Survivor may turn out to be no more than a classic of the mind, but it’s nevertheless an effective little piece, one that could quite happily function on the stage and which features several strong performances and a signature last scene that accounts for its haunting reputation.

Directed by TV guy Paul Stanley and written by Guerdon Trueblood (The…

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

It’s all Bertie Wooster’s fault!

Jeeves and Wooster 3.4: Right Ho, Jeeves  (aka Bertie Takes Gussie's Place at Deverill Hall)
A classic set-up of crossed identities as Bertie pretends to be Gussie and Gussie pretends to be Bertie. The only failing is that the actor pretending to be Gussie isn’t a patch on the original actor pretending to be Gussie. Although, the actress pretending to be Madeline is significantly superior than her predecessor(s).

What you do is very baller. You're very anarchist.

Lady Bird (2017)
(SPOILERS) You can see the Noah Baumbach influence on Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, with whom she collaborated on Frances Ha; an intimate, lo-fi, post-Woody Allen (as in, post-feted, respected Woody Allen) dramedy canvas that has traditionally been the New Yorker’s milieu. But as an adopted, spiritual New Yorker, I suspect Gerwig honourably qualifies, even as Lady Bird is a love letter/ nostalgia trip to her home city of Sacramento.